Guildford Astronomical Society

Brian Gordon-States

Brian Gordon-States - GASBrian Gordon-States

I decided to take up astronomy as a hobby in 1980. Like many others before me I started off with a store bought 60mm Tasco refractor on a wobbly tripod. It was not much of a telescope, but it did awaken in me the interest in astronomy to go further, and gave me views of the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars.

I then purchased the optic for a 12" f6 Newtonian and Dobsonian mounted it. An observatory made from wood – 12 feet in diameter followed and was known as the States-Dyer Observatory (SDO).

I became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, member of the Webb Society, British Astronomical Society, Society for Popular Astronomy, Guildford Astronomical Society and Worthing Astronomical Society.

My observatory has subsequently been rebuilt on two occasions to its final current specification. In the 1980's and 90's the observatory housed the 12" f6 Newtonian and 8.75" f7.5 Newtonian piggy backed on the same mount. Back in the days of the visit of Halley's Comet in the late 80's the observatory had been open to the public for viewings, and still today we have visitors come around, and I enjoy very much showing them the wonders of the night sky. I was scanning through the SDO's visitor's book a few days ago and a certain astronomer from Houston had written that just maybe the skies in Guildford were as good as those in Texas - they can be occasionally.

My wife, three daughters and I flew to Houston in May 1987. During our stay I the signed the Twinning Charter between HAS and GAS with Lee Cain of HAS, gave a talk to the HAS on Guildford AS, and also attended the Texas Star Party at Fort Davis, and was fortunate enough to have private access to a large 36" telescope at the McDonald Observatory along with my friend Larry Wadle, and met Clyde Thombaugh the discoverer of Pluto. In '87 I also got the opportunity to observe at the HAS observatory site in Columbus.

We returned to the USA in 1991 and joined the NASA Astronomical Society and Houston Astronomical Society for a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the total eclipse. We observed at an old airfield, Santiago Ixcuintla, along with a few NASA astronauts (what great guys they are) and saw all 7 minutes of the eclipse totality. I also gave another talk to HAS, this time on Astronomy in the UK.

Since the first SDO was built the skies in Guildford have deteriorated badly thanks to the advance of sodium lights, and I have become in the main a solar observer with my data being sent to folks in the UK and the USA, but I still enjoy night observing, weather permitting.

At Christmas 2003 I took semi-retirement from my position as a lecturer in automotive engineering at Brooklands College, and only worked there three days a week and I finally retired in July 2009, but I still do work for the British Red Cross, so am still kept busy.

My back problems have resulted in me re-thinking what telescope I can use. I can't climb ladders to the eyepiece any more, or crank my neck round to look through the Telrad or finder. I seriously considered a large aperture Meade SCT GOTO, but could not justify the cost. In the end I purchased a Celestron C6RGT (6" refractor) on a GOTO mounting with GPS. This CG5 mounting proved unsuccessful and it was replaced with a Skywatcher NEQ6.

Attached to the SDO was my office, which I have now outgrown, and so now have a 14-foot square, fully insulated, climate controlled log cabin, which should be OK for a few years.

In the last 6 months I have purchased a Solar Max 60 hydrogen alpha telescope and a 8" Skywatcher Newtonian.

I had joined Guildford AS around 1980 – since which time I became a committee member, served two terms as President, negotiated the purchase of the society's 20.5" telescope, from Henry Wildey, introduced the society magazine ‘The Skywatcher’ which was my call sign on the then popular CB radio and served as editor for a few years, and then Houston coordinator. I then took a few years off before rejoining Guildford AS and I am now a member of the committee.

I enjoy very much taking part in outreach events and passing on what knowledge I have to newcomers to astronomy.

I have also successfully passed distance learning courses at the University of Central Lancashire in Astronomy and Cosmology.

I addition to astronomy my other main hobby is genealogy, this I started in 1987, after the death of my father in 1985.

DateTalk at GAS meeting
1 Jul 2010Recording white light solar activity

Download Brian's presentation here [PPT: 3.4MB, Members only].
Brian would like to point out that sunspots used in his presentation are hypothetical.